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Your Healthy Family: Lessons we can all learn from Mike Welch's heart attack survival story

Posted at 12:51 PM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 14:51:44-04

WOODLAND PARK — In this Your Healthy Family: After surviving a massive heart attack, it’s no surprise that Mike Welch and his wife, Lezlee, have a new appreciation for each day, along with great thanks for the medical professionals who helped them in their moments of crisis in the early morning hours of February 1st, 2022.

Turns out you're never too old to have a new birthday, says Mike. “That’s my re-birthday - February 1st, 2022. I’m lucky, I wish that I could remember more of what happened, but I know I’m fortunate. I have joined some Facebook sites of people who have survived heart attacks, and I’ll read some stories on there about some people they coded for several minutes … and they have some serious health issues now, I was fortunate.”

Mike is still closely being watched by his cardiologist and wears a defibrillator vest that will shock him if his heart goes into V-fib again. He’s also going through cardiac rehab and has made significant changes to his diet.

Both Mike and Lezlee say Mike’s miraculous recovery is in large part due to the high quality medical care Mike received so quickly at UCHealth Pikes Peak Regional Hospital. Lezlee says, “A long time ago he would probably still be in the hospital. The amazing part of this whole thing is it turns out you can actually go into cardiac arrest have your heart completely stop on a Tuesday morning and be home by Friday. It’s just amazing.”

Dr. Miguel Sandoval, who lead the efforts to resuscitate Mike in the emergency room at the hospital, says he was also surprised by how quickly Mike was able to go home. “I called him to check on him the next time I was at Pikes Peak Regional, it was Saturday and she (Lezlee) answered the phone, and was like, ‘Oh man - I wish Mike could talk to you, but he’s in the shower.’”

It’s a call Lezlee says she will never forget. “It was his first shower (since getting out of the hospital) so I wasn’t going to interrupt him. Dr. Sandoval said he wanted to see how Mike was doing, and when I told him he was in the shower, he was absolutely amazed by that.”

Dr. Sandoval says, “The very idea that this individual who was dead (on Tuesday morning), now four days later was showering alone - it was just mind blowing. It was awesome.”

Mike’s amazing outcome has also had a big impact on him. “The last few years have been not awesome for medicine, and definitely not emergency medicine,” Sandoval said, referring the COVID-19 pandemic. “There’s been a lot of mistrust, anger and sadness so at that moment he (Mike) needed us, I also needed this. This is a huge win and just a great outcome.”

While the Welch’s situation played out perfectly for them, there are a few things Lezlee says she hopes others can learn from their experience. “I do want to say that I drove him to the hospital that night because he was walking and talking and hadn’t had any prior cardiac issues. I don’t recommend anyone do that; in our case it worked out for the best but I will not do that again, I will call 9-1-1.”

Dr. Sandoval also says he talked with Lezlee about the importance of calling 9-1-1 in an emergency, but in no way second guesses the circumstances that led her to drive her husband to the hospital that night. “We did have a conversation about that and we talked about the fact that he arrested in the waiting room. It's just mind-boggling. The fact that they were here (when he arrested) and he had a down time of maybe three minutes before getting CPR and defibrillation and (epinephrine). For cardiac arrest in general, the outcomes are not always that great, it's not like on television.”

Lezlee says she remembers the last words she had with Dr. Sandoval the night of Mike’s heart attack. “I was leaving the hospital to go to the Springs, and I said, ‘Thank you Dr. Sandoval for saving his life.’ And he said, ‘You did it - you saved by him getting him here.’”

Lezlee says she also realizes the importance of knowing CPR and plans to learn it herself. “I think it’s very important for everybody to take a CPR class. Had I been here at home and Mike had lost consciousness I would’ve been in a lot of trouble. So that’s something we’re gonna do together.”

And Lezlee says she also hopes that her neighbors in Woodland Park will learn from what she and Mike went through that crazy night - that quality health care is just minutes away in this small mountain town. “Everyone in Woodland Park needs to know - the older people especially - this hospital can handle critical emergencies. A lot of people live up here in the mountains and those people need to know that - Woodland Park UCHealth Pikes Peak Regional Hospital is a great hospital. They can handle it so just have that confidence that in an emergency you can go there - you don’t have to drive down the hill.”

Many caregivers are responsible for helping Mike and Lezlee navigate this health emergency, and they are so thankful for them all, and especially the heroes at the emergency room who pulled Mike back from cardiac arrest. Said Mike: “I’ve been given a second chance and there is a lot out there for us to see and do.”

Dr. Sandoval says he and the others in the emergency department that night were simply doing what they are trained to do. “Do I think that I did something that was beyond what I would expect any EMS or any other emergency room doctor to do? No, this is what we train to do. This is great, and I just happen to be lucky enough to be the person who got to help take care of him. This is just one of those things that you just smile about and I’m just grateful that I got to be there.”

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